A guide to conquering college stress

Anxiety is not something that’s new to me or my family. My parents, my sister, and many of my cousins, uncles, and aunts have struggled with it or continue to. But regardless of whether or not you have a family history of anxiety, or even a diagnosis, the truth is that we all feel burdened by fear and stress at times. So, I’ve compiled a list of helpful strategies that I employ when I feel an anxiety attack coming on, which can be caused by any number of factors. Sometimes, it’s just general “school anxiety,” or it can be more specific stimuli, like a stressful group presentation or exam coming up. Many of these suggestions are common pieces of advice, but they can be useful reminders, especially in that moment of panic.

  1. Don’t forget to breathe. It seems obvious, but I personally tend not to notice that I’ve stopped breathing. When I remind myself to take deep breaths, more oxygen gets to my brain. This helps me think clearly and realize there is nothing to be afraid about.
  2. Let yourself feel. I used to think that if I suppressed my anxieties, if I buried them and didn’t give them a voice, then they would stop bothering me. Instead, they just found other ways to get to me, even when I was actively trying not to think about them. I would find my anxiety level rising with no clear reason at all—which can be scarier than when I know the source. Therefore, my advice would be to talk it out, whether to yourself, or to a friend, or to someone on campus who you trust like a professor or counselor, and address why you feel anxious. Just saying it or writing it down will often make those overwhelming feelings start to dissipate.
  3. Change the setting. Geneseo has an arboretum for a reason. That’s my favorite place to go when I’m feeling anxious. Stepping into nature has been proven to have therapeutic effects, and it also encourages me to get some exercise. But even if you’re not going to our arboretum, it can feel liberating to step away from the environment you were just in and take a break. Another option is to get in touch with the mental health resources on campus, such as Pathways. While it can be intimidating to ask for help, it’s always worth it to surround yourself with a supportive network.
  4. Finally, do what works for you. Ultimately, this list isn’t a foolproof way of preventing a panic attack, and I know that different things work for different people. Another strategy that I use is counting to 100, just to get my mind off of things, but that’s not for everyone. The more you find things that calm your nerves, the more prepared you can be in times of stress.

Anxiety can affect you for any reason, especially after such a drastic change from high school to college. There are support systems here at your disposal for whenever you feel overwhelmed or anxious, and above all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.

Back on my feet

Coming to college has been one of the biggest and most dramatic changes in my life, and it still feels like I’m just getting into the swing of things as I find my place at Geneseo. At first, the adjustment was very difficult—I was alone and virtually friendless at the beginning of the semester, and felt generally unprepared for what was ahead. The first day of classes was the hardest for me, especially after having a fairly relaxed senior year due to Covid. I didn’t feel like I belonged at a college and maybe higher education wasn’t the path I truly wanted to take. Ultimately, I decided to give myself a chance here instead of passing judgment too soon, and so far I haven’t regretted that choice. At the end of the day, I come back to my dorm exhausted, nap a little, cry a little, tell my parents how much I miss them (a lot), and get back on my feet because I know that I still have much more to learn and experience. In fact, this reminds me of a song I’ve been enjoying recently, “Back on my feet” by Kimberose, which summarizes my first semester here at Geneseo pretty well: I did not hit the ground running, but instead took a long time to get my bearings and find a rhythm on campus that suits me. Even though it’s only October, I’ve had ups and downs, especially battling with my anxieties about the present and future. Between all the choices I have to make: how to manage my time, what classes to take next semester, and ultimately which major to choose, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with stress. One of the things I’ve had to constantly remind myself to do is not to forget to enjoy life, or as Henry David Thoreau put it, to “live life deliberately.” This mantra has kept me from feeling too depressed, as I often do this time of year when work starts to pile up. It has also helped me remember to enjoy my life as much as I can, from the beautiful sunsets to my favorite playlists. Despite the twists and the turns, I’m still keeping my head above water, and I feel that I’m doing much better mentally than I was on that first day of school.